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22 Dec, 2021 17:53

Twitter sued, accused of acting ‘on behalf’ of US govt

Twitter sued, accused of acting ‘on behalf’ of US govt

Former New York Times reporter and outspoken critic of the US response to the Covid pandemic Alex Berenson is suing Twitter for suspending his account, claiming the platform “acted on behalf of the federal government.

In the lawsuit, filed this week in the Northern District of California, Berenson accused Twitter of breach of contract and of violating his First Amendment rights.

The alleged breach of contract stems from the fact that Berenson claims a Twitter executive had repeatedly assured him that he would be free to express his views on the platform without fear of retaliation. 

“Despite the controversy around his statements, a senior Twitter executive repeatedly assured Mr. Berenson that the company backed his right to free expression and that he would continue to enjoy access to the platform,” Berenson’s lawyers said in the suit. 

The independent reporter and best-selling author was reportedly suspended from Twitter in August over a tweet questioning whether Covid vaccines could actually prevent infection and transmission of the virus, referring to them as “therapeutic” drugs. A Twitter spokesperson at the time said Berenson was permanently suspended for “repeated violations of our COVID-19 misinformation rules.”

In the tweet, Berenson wrote: “It doesn’t stop infection. Or transmission. Don’t think of it as a vaccine. Think of it – at best – as a therapeutic with a limited window of efficacy and terrible side effect profile that must be dosed IN ADVANCE OF ILLNESS.”

Berenson argues the platform acted on behalf of the Biden administration in censoring his posts, as the president himself had criticized “misinformation” about Covid spreading on social media only days before the author’s suspension. 

He is also claiming in his lawsuit that a California law applying to “common carriers” applies to Twitter. The legislation, dating back to 1872, regulates companies that “offer to the public to carry persons, property, or messages.”

Berenson’s lawyers argue the legislation is relevant to the suit as the “courts have repeatedly applied the 1872 law to telephone companies and other technologies that did not exist at the time it was enacted,” adding that Twitter does not have the publishing freedom typically afforded due to the common carrier law.

Berenson has drawn the ire of some political activists and health officials for his views on the pandemic. The author has criticized media coverage of Covid-19 and its lethality, as well as government lockdowns and vaccine mandates. The Atlantic dubbed him “the pandemic’s wrongest man” in April. 

Berenson is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a reinstatement of his Twitter account. 

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